As a new entrepreneur, being comfortable using a computer and finding digital tools that work for you and your business can be a huge benefit – helping you work more efficiently, saving time and money.
For document writing, presentations and basic office software, often free versions of software come bundled with a new PC or laptop – Microsoft Office is the best known of these, and can be available free for a period of time before you are asked to pay a monthly or annual subscription. But check out Google Docs, Sheets and Slides for alternative, free, options.
If you want to cover the basics of any online tool, you’ll usually be able to find tutorials and training online too. YouTube is full to bursting with ‘how-to’s’ if you can’t find the right support from software providers.
Bookkeeping is a key part of running a business so that you can keep track of your invoices and cashflow. There’s been a boom in online bookkeeping tools which can help small and start-up businesses enormously. Take a look at FreeAgent, Xero and Kashflow for starters – but there are lots!
It won’t take long before your digital files take over the storage on your computer. Get around this by storing your files on the ‘cloud’ – remote ‘filing cabinets’ on the internet. The benefits of cloud storage include being able to have a backup of all of your important files (critical in case of emergencies or disasters) and the ability to log in from any location – meaning you really can run your business fully mobile. Examples of cloud document storage are Dropbox and Google Drive. Some mobile and telecoms providers also offer their customers a limited amount of free cloud storage. Between all of these you should be able to create back-ups and store them safely.
For most online business tools, apps and platforms, there will be a free version – sometimes with more limited functions – which allows you to try it out before you commit to a subscription or usage fee. Most will have an app as well as a website-based dashboard, allowing you to work wherever you are, from phone, tablet or laptop.
For additional digital support for business, the Digital Boost programme provided online by Business Gateway is a good place to start. Also keep an eye out for online and local face-to-face sessions run by Google Digital Garage
Of course, where working online really comes into its own is being able to promote your business to large numbers of customers cheaply and even globally if you need to. You can read more about online marketing here.